Gig Society, Aristotle and Computers, Failed Obamacare Repeal: Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing excellent content, but also keeping an eye on other great writing from around the web. This may be a predominantly arts/culture-centric website, but given the immediate gravity of U.S. politics, we’ve been focusing this outward-looking post on indispensable political writing, as well as the occasional culture piece.

Moze Halperin: What an excellent way to start off the weekend: the AHCA bill is no longer, to use Donald Trump’s favorite words, “failing,” but after a long wait, failed. The news was announced this afternoon, with the New York Times reporting that House Republicans pulled the legislation after augmenting opposition on both the Right and the Left:

President Trump, through his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, told House Republicans on Thursday night that he was giving them this one chance to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If they failed, Mr. Mulvaney told them, the president would live with his predecessor’s law. …
Vice President Mike Pence and Tom Price, the health secretary, rushed to Capitol Hill for a late appeal to House conservatives, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. “You can’t pretend and say this is a win for us,” said Representative Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina, who conceded it was a “good moment” for Democrats. “Probably that champagne that wasn’t popped back in November may be utilized this evening,” he said.

Indeed, I’m, er, utilizing some champagne right now.

MH: In the New Republic, Sarah Posner looks in detail into the ways Donald Trump used bigotry to win over the support of the ultra-Christian right, despite having lived a lifestyle of “a thrice-married, biblically illiterate sexual predator.” Posner explores how this re-exposes the ways the religious right was first “galvanized” through racism, and how, despite how rhetoric has largely sculpted their public image as being about anti-abortion and ideals of “sexual purity,” “Trump effectively played to the religious right’s own roots in white supremacy.”

In the end, conservative Christians backed Trump in record numbers. He won 81 per- cent of the white evangelical vote—a higher share than George W. Bush, John McCain, or Mitt Romney. As a result, the religious right—which for decades has grounded its political appeal in moral “values” such as “life” and “family” and “religious freedom”—has effectively become a subsidiary of the alt-right, yoked to Trump’s white nationalist agenda. Evangelicals have traded Ronald Reagan’s gospel-inspired depiction of America as a “shining city on a hill” for Trump’s dark vision of “American carnage.” And in doing so, they have returned the religious right to its own origins—as a movement founded to maintain the South’s segregationist “way of life.”

MH: As the return of Twin Peaks nears, nostalgia pieces about various elements of the original series are ubiquitous — and, why not, here’s another. Dorian Lynskey writes for the Guardian about Angelo Badalamenti’s score, and that famous theme that hypnotized audiences into exactly the right bucolic nightmare headspace needed to feel fully immersed in the series:

Twin Peaks’s mainstream success lasted only a few months. A confused second season and a divisively strange movie prequel without Frost’s involvement, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, returned it to the cultish realm that Lynch’s work usually inhabited. Nevertheless, in recent years it has cast its spell over pop yet again. You can detect it, whether implicit or explicit, in Lana Del Rey’s doomed prom queen persona, Bastille’s song “Laura Palmer”, the gothic pop of Sky Ferreira’s Palmer-quoting “Night Time, My Time”, the sweet yet sinister ambience of the band Beach House, and much more.

Tom Hawking: If you live in New York, you’ve probably seen those awful ads all over the subway for Fiverr, a company most recently in the news when YouTube star PewDiePie said PewDieBye to his career by paying two unfortunate Indian gentlemen $5 to jump around holding a sign that read “DEATH TO ALL JEWS.” Fiverr is, yes, a platform that enables you to offer paltry compensation to get jobs done by people desperate enough to work for that paltry compensation. It’s perhaps the most nakedly unpleasant example of the gig economy, and in the New Yorker, Jia Tolentino dissects this most 21st century example of capitalist hell:

The contrast between the gig economy’s rhetoric (everyone is always connecting, having fun, and killing it!) and the conditions that allow it to exist (a lack of dependable employment that pays a living wage) makes this kink in our thinking especially clear… I’ve come to detest the local-news set piece about the man who walks ten or eleven or twelve miles to work… The story is always written as a tearjerker, with praise for the person’s uncomplaining attitude; a car is usually donated to the subject in the end. Never mentioned or even implied is the shamefulness of a job that doesn’t permit a worker to afford his own commute.

TH: I feel like I’ve lived long enough on this planet to rarely be shocked by things, but Jesus Christ, I was genuinely aghast at reading Nancy Jo Sales’ story in the Guardian about Danielle Bregoli, the 13-year-old who became mildly famous after an appearance on Dr Phil as an “out-of-control teen.” It describes how she leveraged her appearance into internet fame, and suggests that this phenomenon — regularly involving girls as young as Bregoli — is not at all unusual:

What accounts for Bregoli’s soaring appeal, in contrast to the countless other “out-of-control teens” Dr. Phil has brought on television to admonish over the years? The answer becomes clear in a YouTube video posted in February which has gotten over three million views. It shows Bregoli lying on a bed, wearing just a bra and sweatpants, slapping her behind and suggestively panting: “Ass so fat, how bow dah?” Then she’s twerking, then placing a bottle in between her breasts. Some of the unprintable comments on this video gleefully celebrate pedophilia.

I mean, fucking hell. Sales describes how, just like everything else on the internet, teens’ popularity is driven by metrics on Likes and Shares and etc — and, as a teen in Los Angeles explains to her, “If you post a picture winning the math award, people will laugh at you, but if you post a picture in a bikini you’ll get like a hundred likes.”

TH: I am a sucker for popular science, so when my esteemed colleague and co-contributor to this column Moze Halperin sent me this last piece, I was all over it like the measles. The story is by The Atlantic‘s Chris Dixon, and explains how the principles of logic that informed George Boole’s The Laws of Thought — a book that set out the algebraic notation for logic problems that was later adapted for use in the first personal computers — reach, via Descartes and Euclid, all the way back to Aristotle. It’s a fascinating and accessible overview of how Aristotelian logic has both shaped and enabled rigorous thinking, and how influential it has been — and continues to be — on contemporary thought:

The Laws of Thought created a new scholarly field—mathematical logic—which in the following years became one of the most active areas of research for mathematicians and philosophers. Bertrand Russell called The Laws of Thought “the work in which pure mathematics was discovered.” Shannon’s insight was that Boole’s system could be mapped directly onto electrical circuits. At the time, electrical circuits had no systematic theory governing their design. Shannon realized that the right theory would be “exactly analogous to the calculus of propositions used in the symbolic study of logic.”